The new head of the Software Association says the organisation is going back to its “grassroots” of providing services to developers and is giving up its lobbyist role.
Peter Nathan, the founder and managing director of payroll software company Comacc, says new executive members elected late last year want to provide tangible services, and are piloting a developer cluster scheme in Christchurch in conjunction with the Canterbury development agency.
There, under the wing of executive member and Jade business manager Keith Cowan, up to 80 developers are networking and being offered mentoring services, marketing expertise, exporting information and advice on how to put together proposals for funding institutions.
Similar clusters are to be set up in every major city – with five in Auckland pending outcomes of discussions with the city councils.
The mentor system is being formally finalised after a scoping survey last year and a nationwide directory of developers is being compiled for users to find each other.
Nathan says in the past the association had “lost its way, because it got political”.
“Our primary focus is back on the people and to start from there,” he says.
“The association is to be the voice for small developers.”
Nathan says lobbying for the industry will be placed in the hands of the upcoming Knowledge Industries Council, which is chaired by Sir Ron Carter and on which the association is represented.
Other initiatives planned by the new-look association include encouragement for an internship programme for graduates to get life skills in the industry, and being a sponsor of the Hi Tech Awards.
Nathan was voted on as president late last year when long standing president and high profile lobbyist John Ball, founder of Soft Tech, stood down. The other new executive members are Cowan, Data Group managing director Rollo Gillespie, Walstan’s director Kate Stanton, Delphic Medical Systems business development manager Mark Cox, APT Software managing director Helena Carter, Orion Systems general manager Mark Capil, and Pavitra Roy, regional manger for International Global Tele Systems. X-Sol founder and Trade New Zealand director John Blackham was re-elected, but has since stood down.
The association, which faced a declining membership since its heyday as the Software Exporters Association in the early 1990s, has had a resurgence of membership inquiries in the past few months as software exports have boomed. The association says it has around 500 companies on its email list now, and is attracting 60 to 70 people to dinners held each month.
The cluster scheme is also meant to move the association away from being seen as an Auckland-centric club, Nathan says.
Nathan says he wanted to be involved in the association because when he started his business 10 years ago, it would have been nice to have outside help and to avoid a few mistakes. While the software association existed then, he didn't know anything about it, he says.
"It's a pretty lonely business, starting out," he says. "But I've found there are a lot of people wanting to the put the time into these [schemes]."